Everton – Fulham: The Cottagers bordered on fantastic for much of the game as Josh Maja scored twice in his first start as Scott Parker’s side won 2-0 at Goodison Park on Sunday.
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Maja put the ball into an open net twice in the second half as Fulham dealt Everton a bitter blow in their quest for UEFA Champions League qualification.
Fulham, on the other hand, have taken points from nine of their last 13 games and are slowly inching toward safety. Now, if only the could have a do-over on the first four months of the 2020-21 Premier League season.
3 things we learned: Everton – Fulham
1. Fulham finding their way, but probably too late: Sunday’s result snapped Fulham’s 12-game winless run, though they had managed to pick up a point in eight of the 12. More than anything, Parker’s players look more like a cohesive group of professionals now than at any other point this season. Everton offered next to nothing in this one, and Fulham deserve their share credit for that fact. Fulham looked far more likely to blow the doors off Goodison Park — and they did so, eventually — than Everton looked like fighting back to take anything from the game. Alas, even with Sunday’s victory, Fulham remain seven points adrift of 17th place and are likely heading back to the EFL Championship.
2. He’s a Maja-c man: (No apologies for the pun.) Not only was Maja a last-minute transfer deadline day signing for Fulham, but he was very much a fall-back option after Joshua King chose a move to — you guessed it — Everton, rather than joining the Cottagers. The universe clearly has a sense of humor and wanted to make it very clear on Sunday. If it wasn’t clear enough after Maja’s two goals, King had a goal of his own ruled out for offside.
3. And yet, Everton still top-4 contenders (somehow): For as poor as Everton were on Sunday — and they were dire — they’re still just as likely to finish in the top-four as any of the other five or six sides in the mix. They’re three points back with a pair of games in hand on fourth-place Liverpool, and one each on Chelsea and West Ham more directly in front of them. It’s looking more and more like no one wants to finish fourth, which should make the final 14 matchweeks as hilarious as they’re sure to be entertaining.
Bobby Decordova-Reid went inches from scoring perhaps the cheekiest goal of the season in the 10th minute, when he peeled away from the pack to make a near-post run well outside the width of the goal. The ball came to him low and at an incredibly tight angle, and Decordova-Reid applied a nearly perfect flick to send the ball looping high over the head of Robin Olsen, only for it to strike the post and carom back into play.
Everton’s first shot didn’t come until after 30 minutes, but they went agonizingly close to opening the scoring with their second attempt of the game. Seamus Coleman drove through the heart of midfield and unleashed a low strike toward Alphonse Areola’s left-hand post, but the veteran right back could only watch in agony as the ball struck the front of the post.
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Maja broke the deadlock not only after the second half began, and it was hugely deserved goal for the visitors. Ola Aina played Ademola Lookman in behind the Everton defense, and Lookman had plenty of time and space to pick out the cross for Maja who was completely unmarked as he streaked into the penalty area.
Fulham continued to dominate the game from that point on, and Maja made it 2-0 with an even easier put-back finish in the 65th minute. Harrison Reed’s shot struck the post, but this time the rebound found its way into the middle of the six-yard box where Maja read the bounce perfectly and slotted into an empty net.
King got on the end of Andre Gomes’ brilliant cross to give Everton life in the 78th minute, poking home from close rang, only for the offside flag to go up and Fulham fans to have the last laugh.